Mehubarim (connected) is a collaboration between the Hebrew University's Student Union and Rothberg International School. The program started as a language exchange program where Hebrew speaking students were paired with foreign language speaking students in order to help one another improve their second language skills.
The program was founded with an emphasis on language learning skills, while the social aspect was a side benefit. Three years ago, Ira Kirschner, who is now director of the Office of Student Life at Rothberg, and Tal Arama, the Student Union's liaison to Rothberg, decided to shift the focus of Mehubarim and leverage the opportunity to connect international and Israeli students on a social level.
This year's directors, Keren Soimu, from the Student Union, and Orel Achirotem, from Rothberg, are focused on marketing the program and increasing its visibility on campus. These efforts paid off, as of now more than 300 students signed up this semester, ten times more students than last year.
"The program is a platform that serves as a kind of 'dating app' but for meeting friends. We match students according to personal interests and requests," Soimu explains. “Students are looking for these types of connections, and this platform helps fill this need."
The program has three official meetings each semester, which focus on engaging activities, in hopes that a bond will form and spark a friendship that the students will want to further develop outside of the framework of the program.
"As a student, it took me a very long time to leave my comfort zone and discover the great social life on campus," Soimu shares. “This program could help both Israeli and Rothberg students adjust, network, and feel more connected to the University community."
Soimu explains the importance of working with Rothberg, “Often it feels like there are two separate communities on campus. The study abroad programs are separated and there aren't many opportunities to meet and form connections. Our main goal is to raise awareness and provide a platform that connects the two communities."
“We want students to see the international students as a part of the University and not as a separate entity. We often don't realize how many of them form opinions about Israel, during these experiences; some even consider moving here. Not only does Mehubarim expose them to Israeli culture outside of the classroom, it helps them connect to this place on an emotional, national and social level. As for the Israeli students, we feel like this is a great opportunity to network, make contacts abroad and gain exposure to the global community."
Mehubarim students pose with their artwork created at the Paint Date event.